NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind a game-high 25 points from senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas), Belmont University men's basketball defeated SIU Edwardsville, 83-72, Saturday.
After burning the nets for 51 3-pointers over their last four games - and 105 points from junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) over that stretch - the Bruins got off to an unusually cold start.
But eight quick points from Luke capped a 10-0 Belmont run and gave the hosts a five point lead five minutes in.
Belmont held SIU Edwardsville scoreless for a six-minute stretch before a Jaylen McCoy 3-pointer at the 12:32 mark.
Luke continued to carry the Belmont scoring torch, but timely 3-point shooting kept the Cougars within range.
A Daniel Kinchen 3-pointer right before the first half horn gave SIU Edwardsville a 32-30 halftime lead.
Belmont shot 39 percent (11-for-28) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 4-for-15 from 3-point distance. Belmont forced nine first half turnovers.
Luke led Belmont with 15 first half points.
A transition 3-pointer from junior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) tied the score at 38 with 16:53 remaining.
Then after a Brandon Jackson basket, freshman Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) sparked a 9-0 Belmont spurt to give the Bruins a 49-43 edge with 13:02 left.
Two Egekeze free throws made the score 56-50, before a Jalen Henry four-point play trimmed the margin to two.
In fact, Henry would score 10 consecutive points for the Cougars, giving SIU Edwardsville a 60-58 lead with 5:10 remaining.
The final five minutes were characterized by more high drama, momentum swinging plays.
Following a Belmont empty possession, Henry would be whistled for an offensive foul, extending his off arm into Egekeze's head on an aggressive drive to the basket.
Official video review would confirm the call as a Flagrant 1 foul, awarding Egekeze two free throws and Belmont possession.
Egekeze, and then Windler, would deliver free throws to give Belmont a 62-60 lead with 4:25 left.
SIU Edwardsville replied with a deep, contested 3-pointer from David McFarland to reclaim a one-point lead.
Moments later, Luke would answer with a 3-pointer of his own, and Belmont would not trail again.
A Luke steal and a Hopkins putback basket stretched the lead to 67-63 with 3:19 remaining.
Following two SIU Edwardsville free throws, Luke supplied two key assists late – one to Hopkins for a baseline 3-pointer and one to Windler for an alley oop slam – as the Bruins went 9-for-11 from the free throw line in the final 1:01 to secure the outcome.
All told, Belmont shot 46 percent (25-for-55) from the field - including 9-for-25 from 3-point distance.
Luke led four Bruins in double figures with 25 points. McClain scored 21. Egekeze added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Hopkins had 11.
Henry led SIU Edwardsville (7-14, 3-7 OVC) with 17 points.
Belmont has won 12 of its last 13 games.
Belmont (17-6, 9-1 OVC) returns to game action Thursday, Feb. 1 at Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on OVC Digital Network. The live play-by-play of the Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Belmont improves to 7-0 vs. SIU Edwardsville ... Belmont closed the game on a 21-9 run ... The game featured nine ties and 11 lead changes ... Belmont forced 16 SIU Edwardsville turnovers, which led to 25 Belmont points ... Luke was one shy of his career-high in points (26, vs. Seattle) ... Hopkins had his ninth double figure scoring game ... With 13 points, Egekeze passed Josh Goodwin and Matthew Dotson, and now stands 14th on Belmont's NCAA Division I era career scoring list (1,170 points) ... Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Belmont men's and women's basketball are 50-2 combined in conference games ... With the victory, Belmont head coach Rick Byrd passed Rick Pitino for 15th all-time in career victories (771).